After a student visa, a contract visa, a professional visa and nearly four years in Chile, I have just gotten notice of my new permanent residency status! Why is this exciting? Life just gets easier. It doesn’t mean I can stay here forever necessarily, but for five years I can do anything any other Chilean does without having to jump through any special hoops. Bank account – no problem. I can use my new ID card to travel within South America without paying the US citizen entry tax. This reciprocal tax is usually equivalent to what we in the States charge others to enter. Maybe on the face of it, this seems fair, but in reality it is said that the money just lines the pockets of whoever is working that day at the airport. For budget travelers, this can add up to a lot of dough.
For anyone considering coming to Chile, it’s easy to arrive and simply obtain a tourist visa that lasts for 90 days at the airport and is renewable for another 90 days. The entry fee for those coming from the US is about 131$, which is the same price as a student visa. If you in fact obtain a student visa before arriving, and have already paid your visa fee, this will cover you at the airport. If you arrive on a tourist visa and decide you’d like to stay and work, there are many jobs for English speakers who know grammar, how to teach and hold either a language related Bachelor’s degree or a TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language] certificate. The English institute or University or whatever institution that may offer you a job opening in your field would give you a contract. With this you could apply and easily acquire a visa sujeto a contrato, or a ‘contract visa’. These visas last for one year and are renewable. After two years on a contract visa at the same job, you can apply for residency.
Overall, for English teachers this is not a difficult process, and your Spanish skills need not be advanced. Be aware though that if you don’t speak the language, it will be easier to take advantage of you. One place jumps to mind. They advertise that they will offer you a contract before you step foot in Chile, and prefer that you do not speak Spanish. It is run by a man who left the US over 30 years ago and has never returned. That sounds a little suspicious to me. If you have questions on institutions, I have worked for a handful and most of my friends have experience with the rest. I could give you tips if you’re interested or let you know what is fair pay for this kind of work.
I chose to nix my contract early on because I like the ability to fire a client when need be. I switched from a contract to professional, which means I can send out boletas, or monthly invoices to each client – be it a student, translation, University, interpretation or whatever, and the 10% tax comes directly out (you get this money back if you’re not going to stay here, and Chile and the US have an accord that any money earned while in Chile is exempt from taxation up to $85,000 US per year). In order to have this type of visa one has to bring their university diploma that has been ‘legalized’ by the issuing secretary of state and then legalized again once in Chile. After one year of this visa you can apply for residency.
The other visa types are linked to having family here – not me – or having a whole bunch of money – definitely not me – so I can’t give any information there.
¡Vivan las fronteras! Just kidding.